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Choreographic Outcomes: Improving Dance Composition

Article  in  Dance Research Journal · January 2005

DOI: 10.1017/S0149767700008585


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Edward C. Warburton
University of California, Santa Cruz


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CHOREOGRAPHIC OUTCOMES: ogy itself, leaving ample room for people—
IMPROVING DANCE COMPOSITION especially teachers—to shape its role in
by Jacqueline Smith-Autard and Jim Scho- learning.
field, assisted by Michael Schofield. 2005. Bed- Choreographic Outcomes is described as a
ford Interactive Productions. 3 CD-ROMs “comprehensive CD-ROM resource pack
(for PC) including Resource Pack with “Cre­­- . . . aimed at improving student choreog-
ative Practice Guidebook” and Smith-Autard’s raphy through detailed study . . . [with]
“Dance Composition” (5th ed, 2004). $360. full access video of 8 dance pieces.” Sounds
simple, but do not let the attractive pack-
Computer-aided instruction for dance is aging fool you. While the program can
a hard sell. On the one hand, judging be used off-the-shelf to good effect, it is
from the proliferation of dance technology- a teaching and learning resource that ex-
related websites, dancers seem more inter- pands exponentially if one understands the
ested in computer applications for perfor- logic behind its approach. In the interests
mance than instruction. Not surprisingly, of full disclosure, I admit to a predisposi-
dance is regarded by the educational soft- tion toward technological applications and
ware industry as something less than a Smith-Autard’s work in particular. How-
niche market and therefore a low-priority ever, before now, I had not previously used
investment. On the other hand, popular or beta-tested this program, so I came to it
views of educational technology in dance with fresh eyes (and ears).
tend to exaggerate both its promise and its The first thing you will notice about the
peril. Advocates tout computers and the In- program is the high-quality production val-
ternet as instant remedies for dry curric- ues. It is clear from the outset that this is
ulum and didactic instruction. Alarmists a hefty piece of software with plenty of
worry that computers will undermine cre- features and supporting materials that lie
ative activity and the World Wide Web will just off the beaten path. The package in-
replace teachers as the preferred source of cludes three CD-ROM discs, a Creative
information. Practice Guidebook, and Smith-Autard’s book
Until recently, these states of mutual dis- Dance Composition (2004). The program in-
interest and distrust among dancers, edu- cludes over a hundred movies and requires
cators, and software-makers have resulted a lot of computer memory, so Bedford In-
in a serious lack of imaginative, intelligent, teractive includes two different discs to al-
and effective educational uses of new tech- low the user two options: direct-use from
nologies in dance. No more. Together with disc or full-install on user’s hard drive. The
Bedford Interactive (www.dance-interactive direct-use option downloads each movie
.web.com), Jacqueline Smith-Autard’s re- as you select it and thus involves a short
cent forays into educational technology delay each time you click on a new movie.
have produced a series of state-of-the-art If you can spare the 630 MB on your hard
CD-ROMs for dance and dance education. drive, then I recommend the full-install
These impressive computer resources com- option. You’ll move more quickly through
bine Smith-Autard’s substantial knowledge the program and you can insert the Work-
with Jim Schofield’s commonsensical ap- sheets disc, which includes an electronic
proach to the technology. Their most recent version of activity worksheets. A helpful in-
production, Choreographic Outcomes, avoids struction booklet walks you through these
placing too much emphasis on the technol- options.

The potential of all these resources at The uncluttered desktop’s attractive color
the touch of one’s fingertips is enticing. and font scheme is one of the most appeal-
Unfortunately, I realized immediately that ing interface designs that I have seen in
I could not access the CD-ROMs because any educational software. The high-quality
I work on an Apple PowerBook with Mac film and sound direction are impressive
OS X. The hardware requirements for Cho- and essential. The solo performer, Lauren
reographic Outcomes are quite reasonable, but Potter, is a brilliant dancer of remarkable
a PC Windows environment is required. In movement clarity and articulation. I found
my experience, many American dance stu- her lack of affect somewhat curious, but
dents, teachers, and programs in higher ed- perhaps there was a conscious decision to
ucation, use and stock computer labs with focus on form versus feeling. Regardless, it
Apple computers. The market may be too is clear that Bedford Interactive engaged a
small, or the cost prohibitive, but I sincerely dream team of dancers, educators, and de-
hope Bedford Interactive has plans for a bi- signers to produce this work.
platform version in the near future. Though Bedford Interactive and I have
You can start working with Choreographic different definitions of the term, I was par-
Outcomes by click-opening the source video, ticularly enchanted with the Universal Ac-
“Motifs For A Solo Dancer,” which takes cess option. In some software design circles,
you to a step-by-step analysis of the original universal access refers to software design that
piece. The options include viewing the entire seeks to make new media accessible to every-
filmed solo, a universal access feature, a li- one; for example, creating “electronic curb-
brary of key motifs, time analysis, and space cuts” for cognitively or hearing-impaired
analysis. As a graduate student in the mid- persons (see www.cast.org). Bedford Inter-
1990s, I participated in numerous usability active uses the term Universal Access to mean
studies at Harvard University’s Education a comprehensive, catholic look at all aspects
with New Technologies project (http:// of the dance composition. On a single page,
learnweb.harvard.edu). CD-ROMs were one has access to the whole solo dance: its
the latest technology, and I learned phrases movement phrases, key motifs, and tim-
like “wayfinding index” and “universal ac- ing. So, for instance, if one wants to make
cess” to describe the nexus between acces- a close examination of how the “tip” motif
sibility, ease-of-use, navigation, and inter­- develops into a “tip back into travel” phrase,
face elements. Bedford Interactive deserves one can easily locate the motif, watch its
high marks on all these design indices. development from a thumbnail video that
Overall, Choreographic Outcomes takes pops up seamlessly into a full view, and lis-
full advantage of what computers do best. ten to the precise musical phrase in which
The multiple representations—from dia- it occurs. In the space and time analyses
grams to videos—make it highly accessible, sections, I yearned for a Labanotation score
deepening the learning experience without to round out the phrase structure studies,
sacrificing breadth of information. The but I suppose enough is enough. One has to
ubiquitous views, perspectives, and thumb- make choices, and the choices are generally
nail pictures make it easy to follow and fun splendid.
to use. The logical structure, clearly marked I found that one of the more innovative
buttons, and text directions support navi- choices included an “Outcomes” section:
gation through the sophisticated analyses. that is, seven new pieces choreographed

92  Dance Research Journal 37/2 Winter 2005

by three different people inspired by the cal inquiry. Through a series of carefully
original solo motif. Details of participants constructed activities and worksheets, the
are included in this section, which serves Creative Practice Guidebook demonstrates
as a kind of credits-cum-comparison page. how to use the technology selectively to
Here one can read about the director and present dynamic models of key concepts or
choreographers, view the new works, re- to enable students to participate together in
view a detailed composition analysis, and disciplined inquiry.
compare the new works to the solo dance in I highly recommend this computer re-
a directed or search mode. The comparison source to dance professionals in private
modes place the outcome video next to the studios and higher education. Before buy-
solo video, allowing the viewer to compare ing the program, however, I suggest you
and contrast the phrases. Or, at least, I think review Smith-Autard’s The Art of Dance
that is the intention. This section is a great in Education (2002). This seminal work
idea, but it seemed like a bridge too far for will alert you to the conditions affecting
the computer. I was never able to make this teaching and learning, and highlight how
function work to my satisfaction. Of course, technology might improve your practice.
it is entirely plausible that, after eight hours, Next, be sure to use the supporting mate-
I was losing my mind and my (borrowed) rials in concert with the discs. Together,
computer was losing its memory. the program and materials can promote the
Clearly, Choreographic Outcomes is no kind of retention, understanding, and ac-
“plug-and-play” program. It is a sophisti- tive use of difficult concepts—such as mo­
cated, deeply intelligent, effortful endeavor. tif development—that are both crucial to
The fact that it embeds many important further progress in dance and widely rec-
educational insights and practices into the ognized as difficult to teach and learn.
very fabric of the program should also come Finally, respect the process and take your
as no surprise. Dance education is Smith- time. When used by knowledgeable dance
Autard’s bailiwick. This is an important instructors in a reflective, integrated way, I
advantage, but also a real challenge to the have found that this new interactive, por-
user. There is no simple answer to how one table tool can extend instruction beyond
makes effective educational use of new tech- the dance studio and significantly enhance
nologies. Sometimes the tool seems attrac- student learning.
tive, but exactly how to integrate it in prac- Edward C. Warburton,
tice is unclear. Fortunately, Smith-Autard University of California, Santa Cruz
has brought her “A” game to this issue. She
understands learning, how diversified it is, Works Cited
and how important it is to develop methods Smith-Autard, Jacqueline M. 2002. The
and materials that are as articulated and Art of Dance in Education. 2nd ed. Lon-
flexible as the individuals utilizing them. don: A&C Black.
For this reason, the accompanying sup- ———. 2004. Dance Composition: A Practi-
port materials are key to the effective use of cal Guide for Teachers. 5th ed. New York:
this program. The Dance Composition book Routledge—A Theatre Arts Book.
provides a clear framework for integrating
teacher-directed instruction with opportu-
nities and challenges for creative and criti-

Dance Research Journal 37/2 Winter 2005  93

DANCING IDENTIT Y: METAPHYSICS ably related to others. Unlike some critical
IN MOTION theory that gets published today, Fraleigh’s
by Sondra Fraleigh. 2004. University of discussion is not a diatribe against either
Pittsburgh Press, xiii + 285 pp., illustrations. other theorists or specific cultural prac-
tices. She disagrees with Michel Foucault,
Sondra Fraleigh’s latest book, Dancing Iden­- Judith Butler, Simone de Beauvoir, and
tity reads as an apologia for her philosophi- even sometimes Maurice Merleau-Ponty,
cal ideas about dance, what she values most but her critical responses are mitigated by
in dance and what has interested her as a an explicit acceptance of the timeliness of
performer, choreographer, writer and move­ their particular rhetorical gestures, as well
ment therapist throughout her many years as of their contributions to our understand-
of professional activity. One hears in her ing of meaning making, embodied life and
analyses a spirit of inquiry that is un­certain self-identity. At times Fraleigh seems self-
of the world, but confident too in the sur- indulgent; especially when she interjects her
prising possibilities that emerge with ex- theoretical discussions with quasi-poetical
plorative movements, whether in the more reflections. Her aims and achievements in
exclusively symbolic order of theory or the these sections remain obscure. On the other
embodied realm of the dancer. It is a gentle, hand, her commitments to existentialism as
persevering spirit attempting to navigate a philosophy of life and phenomenological
through the conceptual vagaries of contem- method as a therapeutic process of self-
porary theories of meaning including the discovery are clearly stated, if inadequately
problems of mind/body interaction, agency defended, from an academic point of view.
and the social construction of personal One important philosophical discussion
identity. Although Fraleigh’s scrutiny of Fraleigh offers in Dancing Identity concerns
the philosophical problems never goes far the concepts of mastery and control often
enough, one feels sympathy for her point central to both philosophers’ and dancers’
of view. Rather than making the familiar, (especially ballet dancers’) understanding of
harshly critical gesture of the contempo- how mind connects to body. Her aim is to
rary scholar, hers is the self-affirming act of displace contemporary dualistic paradigms
both the therapist and someone for whom that suppose embodiment to be configured
dance has brought healing from a difficult primarily by structures of domination, sub­-
childhood marked by soul-damaging vio- jugation and self-discipline. Dance, as a dis­-
lence. Dancing Identity presents both Fra­- ciplinary practice, is reframed more posi-
leigh’s life experiences in dance and her tively by Fraleigh, as a transformational cul­-
philosophical commitments to existential tivation of the body based on a process she
phenomenology as therapeutic processes of calls “matching.” It involves, for example,
self-affirmation. matching appropriately our attention to
An acting teacher once told me that an- our tasks, or matching in an accepting way
ger is the easiest emotion to play on stage rather than defensively, our responses to
because it defends us in threatening situa- the expressed feelings or worries that we
tions. On the other hand, softer emotions interpret another to have. As a psycho-
such as affection, desire, unhappiness and logical strategy, matching results in self-
joy are more difficult to portray convincingly affirmation, self-directed learning, and self-
because such feelings expose us as vulner- acceptance. As a better way for dancers to

94  Dance Research Journal 37/2 Winter 2005

conceive the mind’s relation to the body, it alienated from the material stuff of the liv-
should not be understood to imply loose or ing world resonates with recent shifts in the
nonexistent standards of excellence (124). biological sciences that consider the impact
“To match, rather than master, the already of environmental and social factors on gene
transcendent nature of the world would development and expression.1 However, as
be to dance, to engage in anything for the with her earlier book, The Lived Body, the
pleasure of the doing itself and not for fu- concepts to which she appeals and the phil-
ture rewards (123). osophical problems they presuppose need a
Although the concept of matching makes more thorough-going critical development.
an important contribution to our under- In some respects Dancing Identity is more
standing of agency and embodiment, it rigorous than Fraleigh’s earlier work. Where
needs a fuller explanation. Fraleigh’s relies she seemed, at one time, unsuspecting of
on over generalized interpretations of some the essentialist metaphysical assumptions
decontextualized Heideggerian concepts of her phenomenological method, we find
and on ideas gained from her study of Japa- her now working through Beauvoir’s anti-
nese Butoh dance. Interpreting a quote from essentialist claims about femininity and
Butoh artist and creator, Tatsumi Hijikata, embodiment. Fraleigh juxtaposes her read-
Fraleigh argues that Eastern practices such ing of Beauvoir with an account of the life
as Butoh, Zen and yoga explore the basis of and work of Mary Wigman, and, because
human nature in the transformational dy- she studied with Wigman in Germany in
namics of mind-body: “Discipline is not the 1965, she disagrees with Susan Manning’s
master word here; rather cultivation is sug- interpretation of Wigman’s aesthetics as
gested” (30). Through self-cultivation we masculinist/Fascist.2 Fraleigh presents the
have the capacity to “experience the bodies Wigman she knew and from whom she
of others through the unlimited nature of gained not only her feminist convictions
our own body” (31). In the practice of Butoh but a sense of drama and the courage to ex-
dance the will is not conceived as central plore movements, both beautiful and ugly,
to this transformational process. The focus through the “tactile-kinaesthetic-affective
instead is on the expression of a creativ- body” (35).
ity that unifies biological, psychological, There are, nevertheless, serious prob-
and social aspects. A person is understood lems in the existentialism Fraleigh draws
to be part of nature and the living world, upon to develop her metaphysics of mo-
say Fraleigh. For the Butoh artist, embodi- tion. Her claims are weakened by not ac-
ment, therefore, does not reduce to social knowledging, for example, the feminist
categories nor is the person primarily a so- criticisms of the bourgeois ideals inform-
cial actor without also being part of nature ing Beauvoir’s and Sartre’s, (and possibly
(31). Such is Fraleigh’s dispute with social her own) observations of life. Important
constructionist analyses of embodiment. criticisms have also been made of the ego-
Her claims are appealing, as is her process centeredness of the existentialist concept of
of intellectual discovery (through reading freedom. Although Fraleigh explicates val-
philosophy and thinking through her dance iantly the contributions of Foucault, Butler
and movement therapy practices). More- and Donna Haraway to the discussions of
over, her attempt to articulate how humans agency and self-identity, the really tough-
are part of nature rather than intellectually minded philosophical problems are not re­-

Dance Research Journal 37/2 Winter 2005  95

solved so easily by appealing to Eastern mental pollution and war. We can choose
notions of mind, body and self. The dif- the values we want to teach, such as war or
ficulty is that Fraleigh is not interested in love, says Fraleigh, “but the body does not
either philosophy or critical theory from an respond well to rough violations” (118). So,
academic perspective. She reads theory for in the end, she disagrees with any theory
what it teaches her about life. Rather than of the body which presupposes nature to be
providing a full rationale of what she finds entirely effaced by cultural forms and sym-
most worthy of knowing, an explanation bolically determined values. “Our dances are
that some of us are wanting rather badly, made of nature, the rhythms of our bodies
instead she signals, almost like a mystic, to and nights on earth, even as the dance itself
movement projects and dancerly activities is made possible through that same body
that can lead the reader to a more Zen-like, rhythm, whether we decide to listen to it
self-affirming relationship with others, na- or not. The nonhuman forms and rhythms
ture and the lived world. Any frustration around us also help to root our sensibilities
experienced because of this lack of critical and movements.” (118).
analysis is alleviated somewhat by the in- Fraleigh advocates for a metaphysical
terjections of Fraleigh’s story of personal space through which the process of self-
struggle. These unchosen challenges in her becoming is based on “a willingness to love”
life obviously inform her philosophical in- rather than a Nietzschean-derived under-
terests and solicit a sense of respect for the standing of the self as a work of art (202).
life she did choose. One ought to choose one’s pleasures and
Granting the transformational potential practices using criteria arising from an ethic
of cultural practices, Fraleigh asks, “What of care to be discovered in somatic princi-
kind of culture will we make of our nature?” ples of touch. These include values such as
Her answer turns to the possibilities she “do no harm,” “listen without imposition,”
sees available even to the practice of classi- and “hear without judgment” (202). Fra-
cal ballet, a dance art form to its core struc- leigh reminds us that our bodies respond
tured by the values of mastery, control and to care and are empowered by care-taking.
perfection (117). Fraleigh argues that there “The vital material investments of the body
are ways of training ballet dancers to find are contiguous with its nature [ . . . ]. They
their movement potentials without force are the natural abilities that give rise to all
and strain. There are now ballet teachers of our corporeal possibilities, whether self-
who address the care of the body and who referential or directed toward others and
train dancers to have an internal aware- the environment” (202).
ness of how their particular bodies moves. Though revealing a certain degree of
Moreover, ballet dancers can be taught to philosophical naivety, there is something
shift the focus from perfection, says Fra- indisputable about these ideas. Few danc-
leigh. Rather than looking at themselves, ers would contest the claim that it is both
they can learn to think kinesthetically by possible and important to listen to one’s
developing an ability to sense what feels body in the process of its transformation
good or right when moving (117). through any kind of dance training. What
Although Fraleigh concedes also to the needs more elaboration, however, is the no-
transformational potential of human na- tion of listening. What exactly are we doing
ture, its possibilities are constrained by the when we pay attention to the body’s natural
destructive effects of violence, environ- rhythms? Can it be assumed that everyone

96  Dance Research Journal 37/2 Winter 2005

has an innate ability to distinguish what is sistent beat, and repeating lyrics, the young
right for the body? Fraleigh believes that we boy-band sang of a lady who got down on
can trust our inner sense of what is right, the dance floor as soon as the music began
but surely it is not so simple. People with to play—she was a righteous, sexy, space
anorexia, for example, often have a distorted age, dancing machine. Although the song
sense of their size and weight. Natures can was already a popular sensation, Michael
be nurtured to experience very different Jackson’s dancing was the true highlight.
sensibilities as “right.” As the band played—with each Jackson
Despite her book’s lack of theoreti- wearing his own color of the same jacket,
cal rigor, Fraleigh succeeds, nevertheless, flared pants, and shiny cummerbund—the
in bringing together contemporary ideas fifteen-year-old Michael performed a dance
and philosophical problems in a way that called “The Robot,” a pop-and-lock routine
grounds their relevance compellingly in her that resembled the angularity and inter-
lived experience of the dancer’s life. Therein rupted flow of a moving machine.
lays the merits of her work. Felicia McCarren’s recent book, Danc-
Suzanne M. Jaeger, ing Machines: Choreographies of the Age of
Atkinson College, York University Mechanical Reproduction, takes its title from
the Jacksons’ hit song. But McCarren is in-
Notes terested in much more than dancing that
1. For a general overview some recent resembles stylized robotics. According to
research in the biological sciences indicat- McCarren, the song “Dancing Machine”
ing the reciprocal effects of environmental suggests two interlocked yet contradictory
factors, social values and genetic make-up images: dancing that looks mechanical, and
and expression, see Lynda Birke’s “Biologi- dancing that works like a machine—“an
cal Sciences” in A. Jagger and I. Young, in­defatigable perpetuum mobile, a dancing
Companion to Feminist Philosophy, Oxford: that emulates machine logic rather than
Blackwell, 1998. machinelike movement” (3). While the first
2. Susan Manning, Ecstasy and the image is easily recognizable and has been
Demon: Feminism and Nationalism in the written about extensively, the second image
Dances of Mary Wigman, (Berkeley and surprisingly links machines with dancing
Los Angeles: University of California that possesses an organic or graceful qual-
Press, 1993). ity. By analyzing both images, McCarren
presents a refreshingly complex discussion
of the relationship between technology and
PHIES OF THE AGE OF MECHANICAL According to McCarren, conflicting
REPRODUCTION mod­els of the dancing machine existed well
by Felicia McCarren. Stanford, CA: Stanford before the age of break dancing and disco,
University Press, 2003. 254 pp., notes, bibli- emerging in Europe as responses to me-
ography, index. $50.00 cloth. chanical reproduction during the late nine-
teenth and early twentieth century. Dancing
In April 1974, the Jackson Five appeared on Machines takes this earlier era as its terrain,
the Mike Douglas Show to sing their hit analyzing modernist texts of all kinds, from
single, “Dancing Machine.” With the au- the development of Taylorism and scientific
tomated disco sound of synthesizers, a per- management, to the canonical writings of

Dance Research Journal 37/2 Winter 2005  97

Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein, and William attached to ritual and situated in remote lo-
Butler Yeats, to the choreography of mod- cations accessible only to a privileged few,
ern dancers such as Isadora Duncan and technological reproduction made artworks
Josephine Baker. According to McCarren, increasingly mobile and available as com-
although modernism’s canonical writers re- modities for the masses, available at very
flected upon dance in their work, the actual close range. Although Benjamin embraces
dancers have been written out of cultural the revolutionary potential of mechanical
history because they themselves were not reproduction, his thoughts about aura’s de-
writers. To counter this omission, McCar- cay are laden with nostalgia.
ren insists throughout her book upon the McCarren grapples with this same ten-
importance of dance—its performance, re- sion, but arrives at a conclusion more fatalist
ception, and appearance across artistic me- than Benjamin’s. According to McCarren,
dia. With research that spans a wide variety mechanical reproduction brought about the
of texts and performances, McCarren con- “death” of dance. She explains, “ultimately
nects aspects of modernism seldom brought the machine that would bring dance to the
together and shows that dance was a crucial masses—showing them what they would
part of late 19th- and early 20th-century in- no longer have gone to see live on stage, as-
tellectual and cultural history. suring dance a wider audience and longer
One of Dancing Machines’ most signi­ life—is also the machine that would kill
ficant contributions to the field of dance it” (8). She argues that mass media eclipsed
studies is its demonstration that dance contemporary choreography and, with the
and technology have been intertwined at invention of cinema, reduced dance “defini-
least since the late nineteenth century. By tively to the realm of entertainment” (31).
sketching the overlapping development of When McCarren declares that mechanical
modern dance and machine culture, Mc- reproduction “killed” or “crushed” dance,
Carren challenges the entrenched belief she suggests a loss of Benjaminian aura.
that dance is an ephemeral, bodily art nec- She also refers to the marginalization of
essarily at odds with technology. Still, Mc- dance, arguing that by the mid-twentieth
Carren does not believe that dance survived century, dance no longer held the same cul-
the machine age unscathed. For this reason, tural prominence that it occupied in nine-
her title refers not only to the Jackson Five, teenth-century France. These claims raise
but also to Walter Benjamin’s essay, “The several questions that go unanswered in
Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Re- Dancing Machines: First, does it really make
production.” In this remarkably influential sense to claim nineteenth-century ballet as
essay, first published in 1935, Benjamin ar- a mass form with cultural centrality? Then,
gues that mechanical reproduction’s ability did cinema really “eclipse” contemporary
to introduce multiple copies where art ob- choreography? How so? Undoubtedly, more
jects once existed uniquely caused the ob- people today watch DVDs on a given night
ject’s “aura” to “wither,” thereby displacing than go to the ballet. But does this really
outmoded concepts like genius and creativ- mean that dance is dead?
ity. For Benjamin, aura represents a spiri- Although Dancing Machines is in many
tual quality, a relic of the human attach- ways a scholarly tour de force, McCarren’s
ment to ritual and magic, which animates chapters are so packed with case studies
the object. Whereas artworks once were that the book occasionally loses its sense of

98  Dance Research Journal 37/2 Winter 2005

direction. Some of McCarren’s most pro- tique of its mechanization” (163). Although
vocative claims leave the reader wondering McCarren urges the reader to distinguish
how the various strands of her discussion between lithographs of Baker and filmed
relate to the book as a whole. This is par- performances, she does not fully explain
ticularly true in McCarren’s suggestions, why a moving image is less prone to com-
interspersed throughout the first half of the modification than still images. In the end,
book, that the dancing machine had nega- McCarren retreats from her initial claim,
tive racial implications. Early on, McCar- acknowledging, “Baker and her film im-
ren claims that race became a fundamental age may not have successfully combated
quality for performers during the machine racism” (190). McCarren’s final argument
age, obscuring dancers’ individual identi- is that cinema granted Baker another life,
ties and forcing “the disappearance of the preserving her dances not just for Paris, but
dancer into the dance” (144). A sustained for posterity, a limited claim that would be
discussion of race, however, does not ap- equally true of still images.
pear until the book’s final two chapters, By the final pages of Dancing Machines,
where McCarren discusses Michio Ito and it seems that McCarren does not even be-
Josephine Baker. The Baker chapter is fas- lieve the book’s central thesis: that dance
cinating, and holds the greatest potential is dead. Contradicting her earlier asser-
for relating race to dancing machines. Un- tions, McCarren’s concluding chapter rec-
fortunately, McCarren does not adequately ognizes that the dancing machine is not
account for the chapter’s central claim, merely a thing of the distant past. In the
and, to the extent she does, she under- book’s final four pages, McCarren com-
mines the brief statements about race that ments on hip hop and the experimental
appear elsewhere in the book. According work of New York-based choreographer
to McCarren, Baker represented to Pari- Koosil-ja Hwang, whose choreography in-
sian au­diences both the American jazz age tegrates dance and interactive digital media.
(viewed as ultra modern and frequently Although McCarren only mentions these
linked with machines) and the “African few examples, numerous choreographers
primitive” (thought to be timeless and “nat- are doing interesting work with technol-
ural”). Yet, analyzing films such as Zou Zou ogy, from well-established choreographers
and Princess Tam-Tam, McCarren argues like Trisha Brown, Merce Cunningham,
that cinema enabled Baker to transcend and Bill T. Jones, to smaller companies like
restrictions on live performances in the Troika Ranch, Igloo, Company in Space,
United States and to resist the commodi- and Capacitor. The list is wide and worthy
fication of “primitive” art objects displayed of further study. McCarren also explains
in museums throughout Europe. Accord- that discussions of dancing machines can
ing to McCarren, “The cinematic elabora- be found in the philosophical writings of
tion of [Baker’s] image, in movement and Donna Haraway, Gilles Deleuze and Fe-
sound, allowed Baker some resistance to lix Guattari, Isabelle Stenger, and Mi-
the kind of static representation that effec- chèle Pridmore-Brown, who grapple with
tively made her an art object. Instead, she late twentieth-century technology and the
used cinema—or it used her—to regenerate blurring distinctions between man and ma-
the image of the human motor as both the chine. This far-reaching list suggests not a
engine driving the machine age and a cri- rupture with earlier twentieth-century ma­-

Dance Research Journal 37/2 Winter 2005  99

chines, but a continuation of that history. insight, advanced from a variety of disci-
The dancing machine is still with us. In plines, has started to make an appearance in
the end, Dancing Machines usefully calls dance scholarship (Browning 1997; Dixon-
upon scholars to examine how dance in the Gottschild 1996; Savigliano 1995). In Butt-
late twentieth century, now known as the ing Out: Reading Resistive Choreographies
digital age, relates to technological inven- Through Works by Jawole Willa Jo Zollar
tion. One can’t plausibly argue that dance and Chandralekha, scholar-dancer Ananya
has been sidelined to mere entertainment Chatterjea takes up the issue in earnest
when so many choreographers continue to with respect to contemporary dance. Ex-
do rigorous work. Nor can one plausibly amining the movement vocabularies and
argue that dance’s cultural significance has cultural and historical legacies in which
disappeared. Perhaps it is more accurate to these choreographers operate, Chatterjea
say that dance has moved away from classi- interrogates how ideas of “modernity” and
cal ballet and the European concert stage in “postmodernity” in dance have consistently
order to find new life in loft spaces and out refused non-White and third world artists
on the streets. One suspects, however, that a place within definitions of the artistically
it has existed there all along. radical, or avant-garde. Casting the rele­
Danielle Goldman, vance of her project broadly, she makes a
New York University strong case for concert dance as “a potent
source of information, analysis, and cri-
Work Cited tique, linked intimately to the processes of
Benjamin, Walter. 1969. “The Work of Art sociocultural and political change (30).” As
in the Age of Mechanical Reproduc- such, the book will appeal to a wide intel-
tion.” In Illuminations. Edited and with lectual audience, including scholars and
an Introduction by Hannah Arendt. students of performance studies, race stud-
Translated by Harry Zohn. New York: ies, women’s studies, and subaltern studies.
Schocken Books. One of the most interesting things about
the book is Chatterjea’s decision to read
these two artists together. In some elegant
BUT TING OUT: READING RESIS- reasoning in the first chapter, Chatterjea
TIVE CHOREOGRAPHIES THROUGH alerts readers to the fact that her project
WORKS BY JAWOLE WILLA JO does not constitute some kind of simplistic
ZOLLAR AND CHANDRALEKHA “cross-cultural” study, nor is it an attempt
by Ananya Chatterjea. 2004. Middletown, to equate very different “women of color”
CT: Wesleyan University Press. xv + 377 through the suspect logics of multicultur-
pp., photographs, notes, bibliography, index. alism. Her desire is rather to explore ways
$29.95 paper. in which racial and cultural difference
manifest through relationships which oper-
The field of postcolonial studies has dem- ate both horizontally as well as vertically.
onstrated how Western ideas of civiliza- Through colonialism and globalization, the
tion, progress and innovation have been same concerns vex varied contexts, such
validated through tropes about the “primi- that one can observe similar political im-
tive” and “tradition-bound” nature of large pulses, even as aesthetics differ. Ultimately,
populations of the planet’s peoples. This the book is a sophisticated response to the

100  Dance Research Journal 37/2 Winter 2005

common urge to think of culture in the contributions to the theorizing of embodi-
crude terms of the tired binary, “white/ ment, much sociological and anthropologi-
West” and “the rest.” Chatterjea’s aim is to cal literature does not see the body in light
consider the possibility of dialogues across of power dynamics (75–76). This general
populations of color. dismissal seems hard to sustain, since sev-
In observing parallels between the two eral ethnographic studies which comment
artists, Chatterjea reads both Chandra­lekha on the body—particularly with respect to
and Zollar as activists, whose aesthetic sense experience, violence, or gender—have
choices serve as vehicles for commentary on explicitly examined its materiality in rela-
everyday realities as well as on the loaded tion to power (to cite but a few, Bolin and
history of representation of female bodies Granskog 2003; Feldman 1991; Gremil-
of color. In Chapter 2 she introduces us to lion 2003; Martin 1987; Scheper-Hughes
the political stances of the choreographers 2004; Seremetakis 1996). In reviewing the
and attempts to trace how their “radical recent literature from dance studies, how-
feminism,” sense of spirituality, and general ever, Chatterjea is admirably thorough in
defiance shapes movement vocabularies. I tracing her academic antecedents. Indeed,
found myself wishing that Chatterjea spent this whole chapter makes a productive read
a bit more time delineating artistic strate- for students, as it gives a clear sense of how
gies at this point. In particular, some more dance scholarship has contributed to im-
explanation of traditional bharatanatyam portant, cross-disciplinary debates about
vocabulary, as well as Indian aesthetic prin­- corporeality.
ciples such as rasa, might allow readers Chatterjea continues her careful charting
unfamiliar with this dance form to appre- of her own theoretical models into Chapter
ciate more clearly Chandralekha’s re­con­- 4 and 5, this time with respect to the prob-
figurations. lems of historiography which have plagued
Chatterjea is highly conscious of the much of dance studies. She advances her
intellectual choices she makes and is con- idea of the alternative forms of postmodern­
cerned to “locate” both her object of study, ity inhabited by artists of color and non-
as well as her conceptual frameworks of western artists. Moreover, following the
analysis. One of the strengths of this book footsteps of Brenda Dixon-Gottschild, she
lies in Chatterjea’s insistence on bringing offers examples of how such artists were
her observations about the choreographers actually very much at the heart of radical
under consideration into conversation with dance developments. With respect to histo-
debates about topics of cross-disciplinary riography more generally, Chatterjea aligns
concern. In particular she gives great impor- her work with historical projects aimed at
tance to discussions about the body, as well subverting Western, linear narratives. She
as questions of historiography. In Chapter then traces the most relevant histories—the
3 she explores the literature about embodi- fate of the Indian devadasi dancer and her
ment, asking the question that seems to erasure at the nexus of colonialism and na-
echo through much of current dance schol- tionalism, on the one hand, and the history
arship, namely how to articulate the body’s of African American exclusion from con-
intelligence without silencing it through cert dance, on the other.
language. According to Chatterjea, while Although a subheading that appears early
feminist scholarship has made significant on in the book proclaims, “You Should Be

Dance Research Journal 37/2 Winter 2005  101

Dancing Now,” it is not really until Chapter tion. The case of Chandralekha is particu-
6 that Chatterjea presents the reader with larly provocative in this regard as her audi-
some choreography. When she finally takes ence in India is relatively small. Finally, it
up the task, however, she does so with de- is not entirely clear what is meant by the
scriptive flair. Chatterjea makes every at- term “resistance.” Given that this concept
tempt to allow the body to speak through forms a primary preoccupation with schol-
her careful use of language which conveys a ars from numerous disciplines, who use it in
clear sense of how movement actually looks. all kinds of ways in very different contexts,
Her level of detail serves her well in the ar- it seems important to locate one’s academic
guments she makes about how the dances antecedents with respect to it. While this
subvert stereotypes, redefine mainstream could hold true for any academic writing, it
or traditional dance styles, retell histories, seems all the more urgent when the object
engage in the queering of female sexu- of study is postmodern dance. There is a
alities, or explore the political potential of fundamental conundrum of how a funda-
feminist communities. All told, Chatterjea mentally elite artistic field relates to ideas
does close readings of eleven dances in this of socio-political resistance. This is not to
chapter, dividing the discussion into nine argue that resistance is relevant only when
sections. It was not clear to me on what ba- dealing with popular culture or extremely
sis those particular works were selected and marginal populations. It is rather to sug-
not others. Yet that aside, what emerges is gest that resistance is often contradictory
a comprehensive assessment of each artist’s in nature, affirming of certain power rela­
contributions. tions and systems of meaning even as it
The book did leave me with some ques- elides them, and should be acknowledged
tions. Given that so much in the work of as such.
Chandralekha and Zollar is about subvert- These questions aside, there is no doubt
ing hierarchies, it would be interesting to that this book constitutes a serious contri-
know something about the process of their bution to cutting-edge dance scholarship. It
creating dances, in particular the kinds of is clearly the product of an author who is
relationships they establish with their com- both a rigorous thinker and sensitive to the
pany members. Chatterjea does not include kinds of moves one has to make in writing
much observation of rehearsals, nor does about dance. Moreover, as the first major
she interview dancers. The primary point study of two very important figures in con-
of reference is the choreographer herself, an temporary dance, Chatterjea’s work is sure
analytical move that runs the risk of affirm- to serve as a point of reference for scholars,
ing conventional Westerns ideas about the students, and dancers for years to come.
singular artistic genius whose creative pro- Shanti Pillai,
cess stands somehow outside the stream of Global Studies
everyday life. On a similar note, in taking Sarah Lawrence College
assiduous care to locate the artists in their
respective historical and cultural contexts, Works Cited
it might be interesting to include some in- Bolin, Anne and Jane Granskog, eds.
formation about who constitutes the audi- 2003. Athletic Intruders: Ethnographic
ences for the works, as well as some detail Research on Women, Culture, and Exer-
about how the artists navigate the political cise. Albany, NY: SUNY Press.
economy of contemporary dance produc- Browning, Barbara. 1997. Infectious

102  Dance Research Journal 37/2 Winter 2005

Rhythm: Metaphors of Contagion and the what the city feels like, how it is danced,
Spread of African Culture. New York: and most importantly, how it moves beyond
Routledge. its geographical coordinates.
Dixon-Gottschild, Brenda. 1996. Digging Like Angora Matta, who works as both
the Africanist Presence in American Per- title of the book and protagonist of its
formance. Westport, CT: Praeger. Tangópera-Thriller found within, Savigli­
Feldman, Allen. 1991. Formations of ano uses a variety of methodological dis-
Violence: The Narrative of the Body and guises. While Angora Matta resorts to
Political Terror in Northern Ireland. Chi- outfit changes to occupy a variety of func-
cago: University of Chicago Press. tions (both formal and ideological) in the
text, Savigliano inhabits and moves be-
tween theoretical domains so quickly that
ANGORA MAT TA: FATAL ACTS OF her crossings often go undetected. These
NORTH-SOUTH TRANSLATION = quick backstage changes enable the author
ACTOS FATALES DE TRADUCCIÓN to begin to describe the conditions of na-
NORTE-SUR, tion and the ways in which they come to
by Marta Elena Savigliano, Illustrations by be responded to. To borrow Randy Martin’s
Marta Elena Savigliano, 2003. Middletown, useful phrase, Savigliano’s “critical moves”
Connecticut: Wesleyan University Press +262 doubly function as a larger reflection on the
pp, 25 b/w illustrations, bi-lingual: Spanish/ academy. Women’s work, especially criti-
English. hardcover $70.00; $24.95 paper. cal labor, often requires a set of disguises.
These camouflages help to smuggle in those
Marta Elena Savigliano, the author of Tango potentially unwanted critiques to the ways
and the Political Economy of Passion (1995), in which knowledge gets produced. While
recorded her text with a “tango tongue.” Tango begins by laying the groundwork nec-
That is, a voice that is necessarily impro- essary for an affective writing of dance, An-
visatory in keeping with the dance itself. gora Matta proceeds by creatively address-
Her new book, Angora Matta: Fatal Acts ing its fissures and unanswered questions.
of North-South Translation picks up Tango’s In Angora Matta, Savigliano revises that
cue. When both works are taken together— troubling conundrum for dance and music
or literally understood as dance partners—a critics everywhere: what are the different
thoughtful continuum is presented to schol- ways in which our objects of study demand
arship. This continuum reminds critics that to be written? In this sense, her prose feels
the critique of performance is always already loaded with urgency. Angora Matta does
unfinished. Thus, the analytical approaches not only continue to think through the re-
to performance demand constant re-vision lationship between dance and music, but
and experimentation. Buenos Aires, as stand about writing itself.
in for Argentina, is the central preoccupa- The structure of Angora Matta could
tion shared by both works. The city’s per- be best described as a triptych in two lan-
petual crises wrought by the ordering disci- guages. Its three chapters fold into one an-
pline of transnational capital, dictatorships, other, without abandoning their respective
its military, and overall history of violence bilingual versions, to form a disorienting
and rebellion, function as the formative (or whole. Each chapter features a variety of
reparative) grounds of her work. In her lat- bold moves that play with the stable con-
est text, Savigliano further reaches towards ventions of written forms. Savigliano leaves

Dance Research Journal 37/2 Winter 2005  103

no writerly formula unturned; whether it is One recurrent character in the book, a
the introductory note, the “correct” space of medium named XYa, appears in a few dif-
playwriting, or even the scholarly article. ferent manifestations. The medium claims
Throughout the book, there are shifts of au- herself as the inspiration behind one of the
thorial voice, imaginative play with genre, main characters (“The Witch”) featured in
and lively winks throughout. Because of the libretto of the second chapter, which
the courageous scope of all of these criti- I discuss below. XYa sues the librettist on
cal gestures, the reader might indulge the the grounds of intellectual property, the
tentative impulse to order the text’s three unsanctioned use of her person, and her
chapters into discrete entities—rendering overall representation without proper com-
the book palpable and an easily consumable pensation. Compensation in this case is
object. But this would revoke the book’s not necessarily monetary, but connotes the
potential power. Instead, Savigliano’s chal- transfer (or stealing back) of ownership of
lenge is the dizzying force with which she one’s own representation. XYa makes her
hits us with all of these deceptively separate damages against the librettist, and those
parts all at once. that implicate ethnographers in general,
This “all at once” immediately makes it- public. The medium’s claim is made clear:
self felt through the graphic layout of the the librettist simply cannot represent her.
text. For example, the Table of Contents/ The details of the medium’s interior life
Indice is laid out as a strategic legal argu- run away from the librettist’s desire to cap-
ment brought to trial. But in Argentina, ture them. This inability to capture, as the
where testimony is often rendered null and medium points out, suggests the failure of
void, cut short with criminal pardons, or representation in and of itself. The medi-
made to vanish completely, the Content’s um’s testimonies are anticipated and ar-
actual lengths are made disproportionate, ranged by the librettist’s responses (and vice
their scope uneven, echoing the mess that versa). These are interwoven in a series of
is memory and its uneasy documentation. documented, bilingual exchanges that com-
Savigliano organizes these sections to im- prise the first chapter, the aptly named “An
mediately rebuff those who would take ad- Uneasy Pact/Un Pacto Infeliz.” Although
vantage of those “inconsistencies” (which “uneasy,” the text’s Spanish/English trans-
in Argentina means disappearances) in the lations are disturbingly literal, felicitous to
historical record to deny their occurrence. the point of wonder. Bilingual critics often
The chapters spill over, overlap, and cover rely upon the imperfections of translations
for the lapses of the other. The characters as an opaque space for interpretive play.
and motifs escape, steal from one another, What might Savigliano be arguing through
flee only to reappear later, and modulate her foreclosure of this space?
from one section into the next. Each seg- At one point in the document, the me-
ment forces you to jump around, training dium is said to write, “It seems clear that
the reader that the act of verification is not the critic, who is more of an alchemist
always an available option. In all, every than a chemist (and not exactly like either
chapter’s “truth” or “sense” elusively chal- of them), is a transmuter and transmitter,
lenges the ways in which knowledge is used and not one who pretends to understand”
to perceive our objects of study. Or, as Savi- (31). This is not only a treatise on criti-
gliano might insist, the way those objects cism generally—but can also be used as a
come to know us. method of reading Savigliano’s book. Here

104  Dance Research Journal 37/2 Winter 2005

I heed the medium’s advice. Given that the For example, the author calls for much of
progression of the book requires reading the staged action to occur by way of back-
with an improvisatory temporality, trans- ground projections (i.e. through “Balinese
mitting Angora Matta thus requires a kind style” shadow puppets which “could be re-
of disordering of the books’ formal arc. I placed through animation”) (57). This nota-
emphasize Chapter 2, a performance inter- tion condenses a highly complex form often
val titled “The Contested Object/El Objeto too easily pillaged for other uses, an impulse
en Disputa.” It is vital to begin here as the that Savigliano has adamantly challenged
rest of the book can be said to orbit around elsewhere. These impulses are especially
its presence. The chapter features “Angora critiqued in Tango, which works to undo
Matta,” the title of Savigliano’s Tangópera- a number of narratives forcefully imposed
Thriller, an actual libretto that occupies upon the dance as form, the Rio Plata re-
both the literal and conceptual center of the gion, and its populations. In other sections
book. It is also the part of the text extended of Angora Matta, Savigliano challenges tan-
beyond the bookends. “Angora Matta” was go’s violent disfigurement when too easily
conceived as a multi-media performance imported to other contexts. I wanted more
that premiered in Buenos Aires in 2002. description of how the actors could come to
The work is geographically set between “cultivate tangoesque body language” (59)
L.A., Buenos Aires, and Miami, yet para- and wondered how that “language,” left as
doxically calls for “a minimum of sceno- such, might be badly translated, or this cho-
graphic resources” (58). The plot of the reography might be taken up in the wrong
work stars an exiled assassin-for-hire (An- hands altogether. The author’s shorthand of
gora Matta) who leaves her Beverly Hills this performative corporeality might privi-
home to return to her native Argentina on lege accessibility over, and even at the ex-
an important mission. Staged to cultivate pense of, complexity.
an air of mistaken motive, we are led to Nevertheless, the most compelling force
believe that her objective is to murder her behind the libretto (indeed, one of the gifts
lover, typically the first ring of the death of the book) is Savigliano’s invention of an
knell for any iconic femme fatale. In the actual genre. Tangópera’s logoclassia col-
second act, Matta’s actual motive is made lides two genres with accented différance.
clear: to alter the tide of Argentine politics Upending the ordered power of the binary,
by assassinating its president, a figure that Savigliano affronts opera with an aesthetic
is an amalgamation of leaders past. In a na- world from the South. We are left to won-
tion historically besieged, at the mercy of der where one ends and the other begins.
its military and oligarchs, Matta emerges as In this way, I situate Angora Matta in the
an unlikely figure for this singular act. The tradition of Catherine Clément. In this ver-
tangópera’s initial dénouement sadly reso- sion, Savigliano updates and restyles forms
nates with the fate of many a Latin Ameri- of back talk against the larger “undoing of
can country: the criminal transfer of funds women.”
and the safe housing of the perpetrator from For many in Argentina (though certainly
an undisclosed location in Miami. not all), thrillers have been less spectacular
It is a bit difficult to imagine trying to pleasure for others than an actual way of life,
stage “Angora Matta” according to Savigli- brutally open-ended and with no resolve.
ano’s direction—and there are some ramifi- The final chapter of Angora Matta gestures
cations here on the larger text worth noting. towards this dilemma. The book does not

Dance Research Journal 37/2 Winter 2005  105

end as much as it troubles finitude: we are more than forty of the major picture palaces
left with other forms of evidence that do not on the chain (Cohen 1978, 1). First popular
seem to fit. Again, the structure is tripar- in New York and then the Midwest, prologs
tite. There are several scholarly essays au- received a tremendous boost, particularly
thored by two other personas in the libretto on the West Coast, when the entrepreneur-
(an ethnographer and foreign film critic) in ing brother-sister team Fanchon and Marco
their respective fields. These essays are fol- devised their ingenious “Ideas” format. A
lowed by a series of fragments, titled “Edgy brother-sister exhibition ballroom team
Meditations/Meditaciones Filosas” which are turned promoters and producing agents,
attributed to Angora Matta. It is difficult to Fanchon and Marco (born Fanny and Mi-
grasp how they are supposed to function as chael Wolff), began their show business ad-
the proverbial ends that justify. Hopefully, ventures in 1919 presenting so-called “jazz
Savigliano will take up some of these ends operas,” which lent themselves well to the
left behind by Angora Matta (the book and prolog format. These brief revue-like pro-
character) with her next project. Given the ductions contained featured solos, Fanchon
brave strides Savigliano has taken between and Marco ballroom numbers (their signa-
her two books, we have something to look ture dance had Marco playing the violin as
forward to. For now, we are left with the Fanchon sat atop his shoulders), and a preci-
promising harbinger: “Books covered her sion chorus. Their “Ideas” followed through
bed. The knife under her pillow.” on the jazz opera idea, but offered multiple
Alexandra Vázquez, specialty acts—dance, songs, comedy rou-
New York University tines, acrobats, and novelty acts—which
unlike a typical vaudeville bill were orga-
nized, however loosely, around a “theme.” A
LOLLIPOP: VAUDEVILLE TURNS WITH popular Broadway musical, a color scheme,
A FANCHON AND MARCO DANCER a fairy tale, current events—all were fodder
by Reva Howitt Clar; edited by Mimi Mel- for these scripted revues, heavy on imagi-
nick, 2002. Lanham, Md.: The Scarecrow native use of props of all sorts. Each Idea
Press, Inc. 286 pp., index. $35.00 cloth. opened and closed with a female precision
chorus, the first female tap lineup on the
In the mid-1920s, a novel form of theatri- West Coast (Cohen Stratyner 1984, 64–65).
cal entertainment took root in the United Fanchon, one of the earliest female produc-
States. Movie prologs, as they were known, ers in Hollywood during the expansion era
showcased live performers and musicians of sound films and a principal dance direc-
in vaudeville and revue-format entertain- tor for films at RKO, staged over a third of
ments presented before the screening of the Ideas during the 1920s and early 1930s
feature films. Although curiously neglected (Cohen Stratyner 1984, 65).
in most contemporary accounts of vaude- Lollipop tells the story of Reva Howitt
ville history, the prologs were an extremely (Clar was her married name), a principal
popular, hybrid form of performance origi- performer with Fanchon and Marco’s Ideas
nally devised as a way to offset the public’s from 1925 to 1933. During her stage career
boredom with silent films (Cohen 1978, 1). she alternated as one of the famed “San
By 1926, touring prologs devised by the film Francisco Beauties” (Fanchon and Marco’s
producers and theatre owners traveled to permanent line of eight women dancers),

106  Dance Research Journal 37/2 Winter 2005

as a soloist, and as an adagio-exhibition one of her longstanding dance partners)
ballroom dancer. She later served as a chronicles an unlikely journey from her de-
“head girl” (responsible for rehearsing the but at age ten as the Sixth Fairy (in a high
tap lineup, setting tempos for the orches- school production of A Midsummer Night’s
tra, and the like) and ultimately became Dream) to vaudeville hoofer. Growing up
the co-director of the Fanchon and Marco in Stockton, California, the daughter of a
School of the Theatre. “How did a small ne’er-do-well father (he left the scene when
Jewish girl, growing up in a Central Cali- she was eight) and a mother who relied on
fornia town on the wrong side of the tracks, the good graces of her parents to support a
make her way into show business, which young daughter and son, Howitt dreamed
in those far-off days was an area totally re- of being a dancer—a ballet dancer. Begin-
moved from ordinary life?” muses Howitt ning with dance lessons with “Miss L,” the
at the start of her memoir (3). Of course, gym teacher at Stockton High School, who,
in those days, many young vaudevillians as Howitt skeptically notes, had supposedly
were just like her—Jewish, Italian, or Irish studied with Ruth St. Denis, she found
children of immigrants seeking a better life her way to San Francisco, where relatives
than their parents, a working wage, or, as housed her during a stint at the Hirsch-
in Howitt’s case, an escape from the routine Arnold Ballet School. When Mildred
boredom of small-town life. Lollipop (which Hirsch announced that her students might
refers to the nickname given to Howitt by want to audition for a show by Fanchon

Dance Research Journal 37/2 Winter 2005  107

and Marco, Howitt seized the opportunity, The result, then, is a kind of triple-voiced
but thought it was temporary. “A chance to discourse: Howitt’s twenty-something self,
acquire a few dollars and to acquire expe- simultaneously naïve and worldly-wise;
rience was never to be turned down,” she Howitt, the septuagenarian, reflecting on
notes (15). Howitt headed for the Warfield that younger self; and her daughter’s own
Theatre in San Francisco, per­formed a very thoughts and ruminations. This structure
simple ballet combination for Fanchon, has a tendency to produce a disjointed feel
and, as she reflects, “glissaded myself into and can disrupt the overall narrative flow.
my professional career” (16). But once the reader settles into the format,
The theatrical memoir genre is rife with it becomes an intriguing read—particularly
the predictable pitfalls of novice writers Howitt’s reminiscences, recollections, and
eager to tell their stories. Too often these correctives as she imagines how she might
autobiographical accounts are overly senti­ have handled herself differently nearly forty
mental, minimally self-reflective, and writ- years earlier. Looking back on herself dur-
ten in a breezy, offhand manner. But Lol- ing those years and revisiting many of the
lipop goes several steps beyond the facile choices she made, Howitt is alternatively
“show biz” account to offer a layered por- gratified by her achievements and disap-
trait of a fascinating slice of vaudeville his- pointed in herself for some missed oppor-
tory and one young woman’s attempt to find tunities, like passing up the chance to meet
her place within this galaxy of omnipresent Martha Graham to discuss a possible future
talent and oversized egos. association (168) and turning down an of-
The unusual construction of Lollipop— fer to write Fanchon’s biography, one of the
edited by Howitt’s daughter, Mimi Mel- biggest “blunders and under-estimations of
nick, a jazz pianist and music critic—is her abilities,” according to Melnick (272).
both the book’s major strength and, some- For the dance historian, there are some
times, its weakness. Howitt began her ac- tantalizing nuggets here. While it is indeed
tual diary entries in February of 1926, about a shame that Howitt never wrote Fanchon’s
a year after she had begun performing with biography, Lollipop captures the closest
Fanchon and Marco. A string of these en- glimpse that we are likely to find of the cre-
tries can be tiring after a while, as they of- ative process of this highly successful, pro-
ten do little more than catalog the number ductive, and imaginative female theatrical
of rehearsals she attended or the cities she producer. As Howitt notes, a new Idea “was
performed in. When she was in her seven- ground out each week, like Fords rolling
ties, though, Howitt resurrected the jour- off the assembly line” (143). Ideas generally
nals, and filled out the entries with a narra- came completely pre-packaged with every-
tive account of her eight years on the road thing from casts to costumes and withstood
with Fanchon and Marco, supplemented up to fifty weeks of touring. One of the most
by saved letters to her mother as well as popular of the Ideas, which Howitt dis-
reviews and notices from her scrapbooks. cusses at some length, was called “Gobs of
After Howitt’s death, Melnick unearthed Joy”—the first to tour nationwide. An Idea
the memoir and added her own remem- with a nautical theme (gob was slang for
brances and comments, which substantiate sailor), the show featured five dance teams
her mother’s discussion of historical persons (Howitt among them), attired in navy blue
and incidents or analyze her career choices. officers’ jackets and white visored caps, who

108  Dance Research Journal 37/2 Winter 2005

performed an elaborate clog dance on a se- with the drummer of the Pyramid Trio,
ries of wooden boxes (144). Typical of Fan- who taught her some elementary drum rolls.
chon and Marco’s flair for the theatrical, She and her sister lineup dancers devised
the prolog boasted a “flash finish” which a number “where we duplicated with our
featured a battleship with revolving guns feet what he did on the drums” (79). She
that discharged flash powder and smoke reflects back with some horror, however, at
(145). Although one wishes that Howitt had how she was literally thrown onto the stage
provided even more specific descriptions of as an exhibition ballroom dancer with an
some of the dances throughout the book, equally inexperienced partner: “Jack knew
she nonetheless offers a sense of the range as little as I did, or I should say less, because
of numbers that vaudeville dancers were ex- I doubt he had done more than the equiva-
pected to know—from ballroom, buck and lent of the couple of foxtrots that he and I
wing, and the waltz clog, to the apache and had shared on a date at Coffee Dan’s in Los
stair dance. Angeles” (97). The constant demands for
Some of the most interesting anecdotes novelty, however, often backfired. Howitt
concern Howitt’s discussion of the danc- deplores having had to do a stilt dance (“A
ers’ rehearsal and training methods. One of monkey could have been trained to walk
the principal dance directors for the Ideas on stilts”) (123), and she never much liked
was Gae Foster (one of Fanchon’s original the Polar Idea, where she had to perform
dancers, who in the thirties went on to a military tap dance while wearing very
produce the famed Gae Foster Girls preci- short shorts and a waist-length sleeveless
sion dance line at the Roxy Theatre in New jacket “from which small, white fox tails
York City) (77, 84). Howitt, in relating her hung at the sides, and which had red pat-
trial-by-fire training in tap dance—a spe- ent leather epaulets outlined with ermine
cialty facilitated, as she notes, by her pro- tails” (86). But, as Melnick notes in one of
ficiency in ballet and sense of rhythm as a her asides, these paled in comparison with
San Francisco Beauty—notes how Foster the so-called “Salad Idea,” where the lineup
“ordered” her to learn a soft-shoe routine dancers had to emerge from a salad bowl
performed to “Swanee River” by specialty dressed as “salts and peppers and lettuce
dancer Dick O’Meara. Howitt describes leaves” (123).
how she spent all her time between shows Howitt was a consummate professional,
learning from O’Meara in the dark, dank and the seeming indignities of some of these
basement of the Warfield Theatre (39). But routines often rankled this once-aspiring
more often than not, the dancers were left ballet dancer who frequently lamented her
to their own devices and expected to come lack of a college education. While Howitt
up with original and inventive steps, which says she “loved the excitement and mobility
the producers would later polish and per- of show business and the physical expression
fect (79). As Howitt notes, “trading steps” of professional dancing” (73), she regrets not
was a popular pastime, and “we spent many having developed her decidedly intellectual
between-shows learning steps from anyone abilities. Howitt (who in her later years be-
able to add to our store” (60, 79). For their came a writer for the California Historical
tap numbers, the dancers often relied on the Quarterly and for Western States Jewish His-
musicians. Howitt, for instance, discusses a tory) recalls a particularly trying time per-
dance born of an impromptu collaboration forming as an exhibition ballroom dancer

Dance Research Journal 37/2 Winter 2005  109

at Marquard’s Café in San Francisco, where Works Cited
she “romped through all the popular writers Cohen, Barbara Naomi. 1978. “Chain
of the day”— including heavy doses of Scho- Prologs: Dance at the Picture Palaces.”
penhauer and Dostoyevski (108). Howitt’s Dance Scope, vol. 13, no. 1 (Fall).
story is in part one of becoming a first-rate Cohen Stratyner, Barbara. 1984. “Fanchon:
hoofer in spite of herself. She never thought Popular Entertainment Entrepreneur.”
she would remain in the popular theatre Women & Performance, vol. 2, no. 1.
for as long as she did, and perhaps this ex- Gremillion, Helen. 2003. Feeding Anorexia:
plains why Howitt didn’t turn her sights to Gender and Power at a Treatment Center.
her memoir earlier. It seems that only later North Carolina, NC: Duke University
in life, as she reflected on her career, could Press.
Howitt give herself credit for her accom- Martin, Emily. 1987. Woman in the Body: A
plishments and come to acknowledge her Cultural Analysis of Reproduction. Bos-
place in theatrical and cultural history. In ton: Beacon Press.
retrospect, Howitt says, “I was the flapper, Savigliano, Marta. 1995. Tango and the Po-
the vamp, the Charleston, the Black Bot- litical Economy of Passion. Boulder, CO:
tom, the jazz baby, the keen dance, the cat’s Westview Press.
meow, and yes, I was Lollipop, Miss Roar- Scheper-Hughes, Nancy. 2004 [1992].
ing Twenties in person” (212). Reva Howitt Bodies, Death and Silence. In Violence
Clar’s story is actually several stories, each in War and Peace: An Anthology. Nancy
valuable to the theatre and dance historian: Scheper-Hughes and Philippe Bour-
vaudeville as it adapted to the emergence of gois, eds. Malden, MA: Blackwell
sound film; the producing genius of Fan- Publishing. 175–185.
chon and Marco; and dance on the popular Seremetakis, Nadia. 1996. The Senses Still:
stage of the 1920s. Perception and Memory as Material Cul-
Julie Malnig ture in Modernity. Chicago: University
The Gallatin School of Chicago Press.
New York University

110  Dance Research Journal 37/2 Winter 2005

DANCE MEDICINE:  services for dancers at the university level;
AT THE UNIVERSITY LEVEL and finally to d) look ahead to the future of
dance medicine.

Introduction Research in Dance Medicine

Dance Medicine is a branch in the field of There is limited available quality research
performing arts medicine that deals with regarding medical problems of dancers,
the medical and musculoskeletal issues that with the Journal of Dance Medicine and Sci-
are specific to dance (Bronner, Ojofeitimi, ence, the official journal of the International
& Spriggs, 2003; Toledo, Akuthota, Drake, Association of Dance Medicine and Sci-
Nadler, & Chou, 2004). Dancers are a ence (IADMS), and Medical Problems of
unique blend of both athletes and artists Performing Artists, the official journal of
(Bronner et al., 2003; Stretanski & We- the Performing Artists Medical Associa-
ber, 2002). Dance, like athletics is a physi- tion (PAMA), being among the handful of
cally demanding activity with significant journals dealing with medical issues specific
strength, flexibility, and endurance require- to dancers. Not surprisingly then, dance in-
ments (Askling, Lund, Saartok, & Thor- juries have been referred to as the “orphan
stensson, 2002; Harley et al., 2002; Toledo child” in the sports medicine family (Schon
et al., 2004), while at the same time requir- & Weinfield, 1996), with dancers repre-
ing artistic expression (Toledo et al., 2004) senting a medical underserved occupational
in front of a live audience (Hamilton, Ham- group at high risk for work-related muscu-
ilton, Marshall, & Molnar, 1992). Medical loskeletal disorders (Bronner et al., 2003).
professionals have consequently adopted a Further, research in dance medicine pri-
sports medicine model in providing health marily focuses on professional-level danc-
care to dancers within their organizations ers, either in ballet companies (Byhring &
(Bronner et al., 2003). Although dance and Bo, 2002; Garrick & Requa, 1993; Hamil-
athletics require similar levels of physical ton et al., 1992; Milan, 1994; Stretanski &
fitness, researchers (Liederbach, 1997; To- Weber, 2002; Westblad, Tsai-Fellander, &
ledo et al., 2004) have described some fac- Johansson, 1995) or theatrical dance compa-
tors that distinguish dance from athletics, nies (Bronner & Brownstein, 1997; Carva-
including the high ranges of motion found jal, Evans, Evans, Nash, & Carvajal, 1998;
in dancers, the lack of specificity and peri- Evans, Evans, & Carvajal, 1996; Washing-
odicity in dance training, and the expres- ton, 1978), with relatively lesser research
sive and aesthetic nature of dance. The (Askling et al., 2002; Garrick, 1999; Luke
purposes of this paper will be to a) discuss et al., 2002) focusing on student dancers.
the status and future scope of research in
dance medicine, especially at the university Dance Medicine: A New Journey
level; b) share some of my experiences as a When I first started working with dance
neophyte dance medicine athletic trainer; medicine, several things were novel for
c) detail our model of delivery of healthcare me as a traditional athletic trainer now

Dance Research Journal 37/2 Winter 2005  113

plunging into the relatively unexplored ditionally, there is talk of formation of a
field (for me) of dance medicine. One of special interest group for athletic trainers
the first things that struck me was that I interested in the performing arts, and a
had to modify my treatment plans for this workshop at the next meeting. This is good
unique subset of individuals: the amazing news for the relatively new field of dance
flexibility of dancers deemed that the regu- medicine, as the word-of-mouth publicity
lar stretching program prescribed for ath- of this program will filter down to incoming
letes would not be as beneficial for danc- students in the athletic training profession
ers. Another fascinating aspect of dancers and other healthcare professions, fueling
in my experience was hearing from various interest in caring for performing artists and
dancers the recurring idea that the dancer’s thus improving the health care provided to
body is just an “instrument of artistic ex- dancers.
pression.” Although this thought is under- The annual conference of the Interna-
standable and perfectly acceptable, for some tional Association of Dance Medicine and
dancers this belief system may lead to the Science (IADMS), which I had the op-
abuse of their bodies in pursuit of aesthetic portunity to attend in London at the La-
and/or artistic excellence. This may lead ban Institute in October 2003, is another
to formation of potentially harmful eating good conference for individuals interested
practices. Further, in my experience as a in healthcare for dancers. Attending the
healthcare professional working with danc- conference was a really heartening and en-
ers, in the student dancer community the lightening experience, as it helped me be-
awareness of keeping the body fit through come aware of significant issues in Dance
cross-training practices (i.e., exercising or Medicine. It also offered an opportunity to
performing physical activity apart from rub shoulders with dance medicine profes-
dance, like swimming) is relatively un- sionals from around the world, and to get a
common and needs to be addressed. It is sense of current practices in the field. Par-
comprehensible that added pressures exist ticipating in discussions at the conference
on a dancer unlike that for an athlete; as about these topics provided valuable input
long as athletes perform well, their physi- as to the cutting-edge research in this field.
cal appearance might not undergo excessive This experience was also of value as we
scrutiny, but for a dancer the aesthetics of set up a dance medicine facility to provide
body morphology is more important. Still, medical care for students in the depart-
in my opinion there needs to be a greater ment of dance at the University of North
awareness of respecting the body and treat- Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG). A de-
ing it as more than just an instrument of tailed description of this program is offered
expression. below.

Dance Medicine and Healthcare Background

At the recent National Athletic Trainers’ The UNCG Dance Medicine Program has
Association’s 56th Annual Meeting and been providing athletic training services
Clinical Symposia in June 2005 in India- since January 2004 to all UNCG students
napolis, Indiana, it was heartening to see enrolled in dance classes. The target popu-
that there were several presentations de- lation for the UNCG Dance Medicine Pro-
voted to performing arts medicine. Ad- gram is all students enrolled in any dance

114  Dance Research Journal 37/2 Winter 2005

classes within the Department of Dance at For the initial stocking of our clinic in
UNCG (~200). Students are provided with the first year of the program, we compiled
emergency care and comprehensive reha- a list based on what was traditionally pres-
bilitation athletic training, as well as health ent in an intercollegiate athletic training
care services provided by a nationally cer- room. Over the day-to-day operation of the
tified and state licensed Certified Athletic program, however, it became apparent that
Trainer (ATC). The program is designed the functioning of the program was more
to meet the needs of the dance students by akin to that of a rehabilitation clinic than a
functioning as a center for triage of all med- traditional university athletic training pro-
ical complaints. The program maintains gram. Several of the supplies ordered (e.g.,
close relationships with the department of athletic tape, moleskin, heel-lace pads, and
dance, the department of exercise and sport tongue depressors) were not frequently used,
science, the collegiate athletic training de- with lower extremity rehabilitation equip-
partment, and the student health center. ment (e.g., Airex® Pads for ankle strength
Referrals are made to the medical physi- exercises and Therabands®) receiving the
cians, specialty clinics, and preliminary maximum usage. In the coming year, we
diagnostic services (e.g., X-rays) offered in therefore plan to order more rehabilitation
the student health center, as deemed appro- equipment and therapeutic modalities to
priate by the ATC under the supervision of assist with treatment and reconditioning.
the medical director of the student health
center. The following is a description of Program Beneficiaries
some of the salient features of the program A little thought of, but important, aspect of
from its inception and its operation over the any new service is the fundamental ques-
past year and a half. Wherever appropriate, tion: Who is benefiting from this service?
I have tried to explain the issues we faced This leads further to the sustained viability
and how we plan to work on them. of the program in the future. For us, this
led to a thorough assessment of all indi-
Services Provided viduals connected with the program. The
Services are offered in a clinic-type format, dance students obviously are the most di-
with dance students voluntarily signing up rect beneficiaries, but they are definitely not
for appointments for either evaluation or the only ones! Other beneficiaries include
rehabilitation services. Walk-ins are also the ATC who provides services, and the
allowed, although preference is given to research arm of the school of health and
students with prior appointments. Services human performance at UNCG. The pro-
are offered eight hours a week, staggered gram offers the ATC providing the services
across three days in the week, so as to allow (a student working towards a Ph.D. in the
for treating students with differing class school) clinical experience in providing
schedules. In cases of emergencies, or the athletic training services in a nontraditional
need for expeditious evaluation and treat- setting and in the up-and-coming field of
ment, special times are made for appoint- dance medicine. Further, the program also
ments. Additionally, guest lectures in dance provides access to dancers as a potentially
classes are conducted by the ATCs, helping unique, physically active population for
to educate dance students regarding injuries research. This population has not been
in dancers and principles of treatment. studied in depth with regard to the norms

Dance Research Journal 37/2 Winter 2005  115

and distinctive problems, although some specifically for dancers was a very unique
research does exist for professional elite concept for a lot of dance students, and not
dancers (Hamilton et al., 1992). Recently, all dancers knew about it or they were un-
opportunities were made available to un- acquainted with the format of the program.
dergraduate students in the sports medicine In the year and a half since the inception
and/or dance concentration to volunteer in of the program, attendance has been con-
the clinic. We have also given thought to stantly increasing through word-of-mouth
the potential of adding this as a clinical site publicity, with a majority of dance students
in the future, providing experiences to stu- now aware of the existence of the program.
dents in the entry-level master’s program in Only 20% of the injuries seen were acute
athletic training. in nature, with the majority of injuries be-
Additionally, the fact that this service is ing either chronic/overuse type of injuries
provided at the university level in only a few (48%) or recurring chronic injuries (32%).
selected institutions increases national and This trend has also been noted by other
international recognition and prestige for researchers (Byhring & Bo, 2002; Garrick,
the university, by allowing the university to 1999; Liederbach, 2000; Nilsson, Leander-
make a unique place for itself in this field. son, Wykman, & Strender, 2001). Muscu-
Good potential thus exists for the program loskeletal injuries accounted for over 65% of
to become a template for other programs all injuries, lending support to the observa-
wishing to offer services to dancers. tion by Luke et al. (Luke et al., 2002), who
Finally, there also exist opportunities for suggested a 90% lifetime incidence of mus-
the program to become a site for teaching culoskeletal injuries in dancers. Further, as
(both undergraduate and graduate) and re- was also noted by other researchers, lower
search. Therefore, it can be seen that the extremity injuries accounted for a majority
program has several beneficiaries. The suc- (70%) of all injuries seen in the clinic, which
cess of this program, as any other collabora- is in agreement with the observations of
tion between various bodies, is a two-way previous researchers in professional ballet
process and has transpired due to the sup- companies (Byhring & Bo, 2002; Nilsson
port of all interested parties since the pro- et al., 2001). A detailed breakdown of the
gram’s inception. injuries seen in the clinic, separated by body
part, can be seen in Table 1.
Injuries in Dance Medicine
Almost two-thirds of all dancers enrolled Where to from here?
in the department of dance were seen for In the immediate future, we plan to admin-
treatments in only three semesters since the ister an “Outcomes Assessment” survey to
program’s commencement. This number is all students who have received services from
high, considering that the clinic was open the program. Incoming dance students will
only eight hours per week and the patients complete a health history questionnaire to
were seen only once a week (as compared identify any potential problems and to get a
to three times a week for a traditional re- health baseline available for the healthcare
habilitation setting), due to limited man- providers when the dance students come
power. Further, it also needs to be kept in to see them. In addition, this will help to
mind that in the first year of the program, make incoming students more aware of
the idea of having a health care provider the program and make them more likely to

116  Dance Research Journal 37/2 Winter 2005

Table 1: Injuries by Body Part

Individual Cumulative
Body Part Injuries
Percentage Percentage

Head 0 0%
Neck 1 1%
Chest 2 1% Head-Face-Neck 1%
Abdomen 0 0%
Back 24 18% Back 18%
Shoulder 12 9%
Upper Arm 0 0%
Elbow 1 1%
Forearm 0 0%
Wrist 0 0%
Hand 2 1% Upper Extremity 11%
Pelvis 3 2%
Hip 16 12%
Thigh 8 6%
Knee 24 18%
Leg 16 12%
Ankle 16 12%
Foot 11 8% Lower Extremity 70%

Total 136 100% 100%

seek help in case of medical problems. We healthcare professionals are ready to get
envision the UNCG Dance Medicine Pro- involved with dance medicine, looking at
gram to be a template for other programs dancers the way I like to think of them: as
to follow in providing quality healthcare to super-athletes who not only need to be at the
dancers through effective application of the “top of their game,” but who have to per-
medical sciences for dancers, and we hope form according to aesthetic demands while
that it will help improve the level of health- doing it. It is my optimistic belief that the
care delivery to dancers. scope of the field of dance medicine will
be expanded in future years by providing
In Closing services that encompass all the performing
The whole realm of Dance Medicine has arts, including music and theater, through
been a rich and enlightening experience for a happy marriage of arts and science, with
me,and I am encouraged to see that more the overarching goal of enabling perform-

Dance Research Journal 37/2 Winter 2005  117

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